The Bud Billiken Parade was started by Robert Abbott in 1929. It became one of the world’s largest celebrations of youth, education and African-American identity. But its first years were slow going before the surrounding communities picked up on it. Lighting up King Drive will be no different.
The city didn’t respond to my request to light up every city pole from 51st to 95th. City pole reefs can cost about $500 each, so I guess that is a pretty big request. Fair enough.
But that also gave me room to figure things out. I’ll just buy 12ft garland with battery operated lights. The lights supposedly stay on for 6 hours and off for 18 hours. They take AA batteries.
How much garland will I need? Between 71st and 79th, a total of 85 poles line King Drive. That’s 85 garlands I’ll have to buy at $50 each. The rest of the street? I drove up and down and counted the poles one by one before I lost track. Maybe there are about 400 of them between 51st and 95th. That’s basically $20k for garland.
You can’t order them in bulk this time of year either. I’m making a note next year to have it all ordered by October 1st. But now I have to make up for bad timing. I’m hopping around the city. The Home Depot on 95th has 3 garlands. There’s 7 in stock at 72nd and Cicero. 7 on the shelves at Oakton. 4 in Calumet City and 4 in Homewood. That’s half a day’s worth of driving and shopping—and that’s just for 25 garlands.
This isn’t the Mag Mile. King Drive has lots of empty zones with no homes or apartments. From 63rd to 67th runs what’s basically a large security fence. This isn’t the North Side, where garland is on all the light poles in Edgewater on Broadway. And instead of 12ft garland they have 24ft. Who provided them? Let’s not even mention the ladders, logistics, and labor that someone laid out for this to be possible. How come kids in Edgewater live with festive cheer as the status quo, yet kids in Washington Park can only feel the warm holiday welcome of police sirens and helicopter lights?
I need help putting this garland up during the week. I’ve asked friends but only a few can help. M3 volunteers are busy during the week. I gotta think of something. On my shopping trips, I frequently see Latino men standing outside looking for work, and they congregate in front of Home Depot. Folks pick them up for cheap labor all the time. I have no idea how the process works or if any documentation is required. Why doesn’t Home Depot provide some type of shelter for these workers, especially seeing that it’s winter? They could at least give these guys an indoor center where they can have a few computers, some heat, maybe job training, etc.
Anyhow, I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. I need help and I’m gonna call up these guys tomorrow. Please consider supporting this work here formyblock.org/jointhelight
written by Jahmal Cole